Sisters is a documentary showing Afghanistan through the eyes of the most oppressed, the women and their very public and defiant act of playing music in Afghanistan’s first female orchestra, Zohra. This documentary came about when Dan Blackwell saw the orchestra perform on youtube and was moved to compose a piece of music for them to perform.

Since the mid 1990s music in all but one form was banned by the Taliban. The only form not banned by them was musical chants. In 2017, Dan Blackwell went to Afghanistan in the hope of meeting the orchestra and getting to perform the piece he composed. From the start of the film, we are aware of the cost of seeking to make this film, death. Dan has to stay in safe houses and has a designated driver, there can be no mistakes. What this documentary does well is to balance the beautiful music against the harsh realities of life and the ever present danger that is never far away.

There are two young women that the documentary focuses on, Negin is the first female conductor of the orchestra and at 20 years old is wiser and more stoic than many decades older than her. She is determined to make music and will not be cowed into giving it up. However, Zarifa a violist has decided to leave. It is easy to just see Afghanistan as a war torn country whose people live in fear of bombs. But they still live and in showing Zarifa singing Justin Beiber the viewer is reminded that these are very young women who like music just like the rest of us

Sisters is an hour long documentary. It deserves a huge audience to watch in awe of the daily defiance of these brave young women to reclaim and hold onto a universal beauty that so many of us take for granted: music. It is moving, at times depressing because of the hopelessness the viewer feels watching and thinking of the fate that might befall these girls and young women. There is hope though, and none more so than when listening to them play music.

SISTERS is currently being shown at film festivals.

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